Beach renourishment project moves forward


By a vote of 4-1, the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 5, approved measures necessary to advance a planned beach renourishment along the entire length of Ponte Vedra Beach. Commissioner Krista Joseph was the lone dissenting vote.

Joseph had proposed that property owners along the entire 8.9-mile stretch be assessed equally at a tax rate of $15.42 per foot, with condominium owners sharing that cost along the length of their shared property.

That would have changed the current arrangement, based on a 2021 decision to split the municipal service taxing unit (MSTU) — established two years prior — into two unequal segments: a three-mile stretch to the north and a six-mile stretch to the south. The MSTU would ensure a measure of cost-sharing for project area property owners.

Under the plan ultimately approved by the board, a millage of up to 0.39 would be levied on property owners in the north, and 0.75 would be levied on those to the south. Taxes would be collected in fiscal year 2025-26.

Several property owners living along the southern segment questioned the division of the MSTU into two unequal parts and wanted a uniform tax rate.

The northern segment would receive about 300,000 cubic yards of sand, while the southern portion would receive 1.7 million cubic yards.

The board also voted to support the pursuit of easements in the project area and the survey of residents to determine whether they want the project. Currently, the county has been granted 218 of the 272 easements along the entire length of the proposed project area.

According to county Emergency Management Director Joseph Giammanco, about 97% of the project is already funded. The total cost is estimated at $40 million, though that is subject to change.

The state has earmarked $30.2 million for the project and the county, $8.2 million.

In order to qualify for FEMA assistance, the county must perform monitoring and maintenance, which will cost an estimated $700,000 annually.

Once begun, 2 million cubic yards of sand would be dredged from an offshore borrow area for deposit on the beach.

One dredge load would equal 2,500 cubic yards, or 166 truckloads.

“So, it’s a huge amount or trucks that we’re not going to be putting on the beach by doing a dredge project,” Giammanco said.

Work would be conducted around the clock, and construction activity would take place in front of any individual property for about two to four days.

Total construction would take five to six months following seven to 10 months of pre-construction activity.

Giammanco cited a study finding that the beach has sustained an estimated loss of 2.4 million cubic yards of sand since 1986. Hurricanes Matthew and Irma were responsible for a loss of 620,000 cubic yards. About 380,000 cubic yards were placed on the beach following those storms, but Tropical Storms Ian and Nicole and various nor’easters damaged that restoration.